California, california USA

The combination of world-famous vineyards and world-class winemaking makes Racines one of the most exciting projects we have come across.

Racines is a collaboration between Etienne de Montille of Domaine de Montille in Volnay, his Californian-born winemaker Brian Sieve, Rodolphe Péters of Champagne Pierre Péters, and Justin Willet, owner and winemaker at Tyler Winery in Lompoc, Santa Barbara.

The story of this dynamic foursome started in 2016 when Etienne and Brian set off on a month’s excursion to California. Their aim was to discover the Golden State’s great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producers and to get to know its innumerable appellations. After hundreds of tastings and encounters, they were eventually taken in by the promise of Santa Barbara County; namely, the combination of its ambitious young winemakers and the region’s most historic vineyards, Bien Nacido and Sandford & Benedict.

Etienne and Brian were especially struck by the precise and nuanced character of Justin Willett’s wines from vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley. Together, the three of them sought out highly-coveted sites in the Santa Rita Hills for their new project ‘Racines’, whose first vintage was in 2017. It was not long before Etienne’s compatriot and friend, Rodolphe Péters, caught wind of this enviable venture and, a year later, brought his sparkling winemaking expertise into the fold.

The wines come from vineyards across the Santa Rita Hills appellation on soil types ranging from sandy and clay loams to quartz and shale. The influence of the Pacific Ocean, just 10 miles away, imparts a coolness and clarity to the wines. Most of the fruit is from a long-term lease of the Wenzlau vineyard thanks to Justin’s involvement as winemaker at the Wenzlau Family estate. Racines also work with growers in Sandford & Benedict, Bentrock and La Rinconada as well as La Mesa vineyard, part of the Domaine de la Côte holdings.

There are four Chardonnays. The Santa Rita Hills ‘estate’ Chardonnay is from a blend of vineyard sites, and is complemented by three single vineyards wines, Wenzlau, Bentrock and Sandford & Benedict. Each is fermented using indigenous yeasts in a combination of 500-litre puncheons, 350-litre barrels and 228-litre barriques, resulting in around 20% new oak on the finished wine. After a year in barrel, the wines are aged for an additional 6 months in stainless steel before bottling. As a result, they express a precise definition of site, each with a vibrant, detailed and saline character.

The Pinot Noirs consist of a Santa Rita Hills ‘estate’ Pinot Noir and two single-vineyards, Sandford & Benedict and La Rinconada. They are made using indigenous yeasts and up to 50% whole-bunch fermentation which lends a lithe and nuanced charm to the wines.

With the promising addition of a sparkling wine made by Rodolphe Péters, due to be released in early 2022 , this is only the beginning of an exceptional partnership.


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